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tv   Public Affairs  CSPAN  January 17, 2013 5:00pm-8:00pm EST

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immigrant families have helped build our nation. we must not forsake the family in this debate, mothers, fathers, and children, preserving family reunification in and promoting economic growth through our economic system are complementary and not competing goals. finally, we will fight to preserve the right of both u.s. and foreign-born workers in this debate. we would like to join with our labor and business allies in making a worker program that features the appropriate workplace and wage protections so that the rights of all workers and the needs of the business community are served. congress and the administration
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must seize this moment and reform are broken system. families are being divided and migrants continue to die in the american desert. the suffering must end. we look forward to working with our elected officials and all of good will toward this end. granted. -- thank you. >> as you can see by this range of perspective, the differences are not great but the unity is clear. the congress must take advantage of the opportunity to pass broad immigration reform. i would like to take questions from the press. please introduce yourself, your name as well as your outlook. >> i would like to hear more
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about the republican super pac. jeb bush, would they be a part of that? >> at this point -- the, we are getting all the paperwork and -- together and we should be ready to go soon. obviously the role of the super pac is to raise money that we can use to support immigration in districts where a republican is supportive. we cannot give the money to a candid it or say vote for this man or this woman. but we can support the concept in those critical districts. you will have to ask governor bush what his plans are and what
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he is doing. i would assume that anything related to immigration will catch his interest. but we expect to do this in the right way, a big way, and have an impact. up until now, it has been a lot of working the hill, but we are going to have to put more muscle behind it. >> you have representatives talking about a comprehensive package and talking about several bills related to immigration. what would you say is the right path? >> the answer to that can be found at the hill. at the end of the day they have to make it work. in 2007, we tried a
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comprehensive approach. while it is not a flawed approach, and you have to watch out for, you hold back easy things until you get the very complicated things worked out. that is part of the problem of a comprehensive approach. senator rubio has come out with a -- the breakup a bill into manageable pieces. it also becomes more transparent to the public. we had a 750 page bill and it was dismissed by one word, amnesty. that is the trap of these large and complex bills. having said that, i think it is a tactical issue and i hope it is resolved as soon as possible because there are so many other
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problems that have to be addressed. but i think they can both work with the leadership and the will to get it done. >> excuse me, let me make a comment. i do not think this is a problem. there is an advantage to a comprehensive bill. there is a disadvantage to a piecemeal bill, if you pass, for example, issues for educated people to get a visa, and they're taking care of, you lose a certain amount of support for the other issues. i do not think we should decide that. i think the senator is doing a great service by raising this issue. i think our colleagues at this meeting, i met this morning with the person -- he and i actually talk a lot. i believe we should move forward on all of the arrangements so
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that the hill will develop an understanding about all of these issues and finally decide whether they will do it in one, too, or three pieces. that is the least of our worry. the fact is they do it. we will continue to talk about a comprehensive bill. >> i am delighted that senator rubio is helping folks take the issue of immigration reform as seriously as he is taking it. he is providing leadership on that and we are appreciative. i think it is great to see movement on both sides of the aisle. whether or not it is comprehensive or individual pieces is to be determined by leadership in the house and senate in consultation with the president. right now they are working in the right direction.
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>> going back to what you were talking about, one of the sticking points was the guest worker program and future immigration. i am wondering what type of projects -- progress you have made and if there has been any medication between business and labor. i want to know your thoughts in terms of what he was saying about a path to citizenship or a permanent status in the u.s. >> first of all, he and i were pleased to report to each other that our staff is working well together on these issues. that is one of the issues that has to be resolved. we are both committed to getting a bill and i think if we can come to a resolution on the subjects, we might see in things move more quickly. the question of citizenship is
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one that has a passionate response from some people. let's take this in a sequential way. first of all, we have to take these 11 million people, 12 million people out of the shadows. we have to give them a legitimate existence, a way they can pay taxes and drive cars and live as human beings. if you want to talk from there to a path to citizenship, i think we can build a consensus around that by the steps would be required. it would be terrible to say we are going to have made them legal and they would never have an opportunity for citizenship. i think that would say something we would not like. the ambassador and i could
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probably debate the strategy on how to get from here to there but there is no question what is needed immediately is legalization and a path to get to where we would like to be. >> then you talk about the difference between now and 2007? are you more hopeful this time? >> i believe, there have been more people coming out in favor. there are people who have moderated their stance on this from six years ago and i think part of that is an understanding that no action is very bad for the country. i would also like to say,
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because i believe you have an asian background, the question about the future flow is excellent. this is not just about hispanic immigration, or undocumented immigration. this is about immigration from the world. the agents are making a great contribution to this country. africans are making a great contribution. let americans. as we think about the future, this was an issue in 2007. it goes to show it is not just one party with a problem. without the future flow, we are in trouble. without a strategic future, we will have another undocumented problem in five years. and less people want to recognize that reality and do what is right for the country, we will continue spinning our wheels.
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i think a lot has changed. we talk about business, badges, and bibles. i think all three of those groups could have done more in 2007. >> de you agree with mr. donahue having different task force for the visa according to the economy? >> there has to be away -- a lot of our laws date back to the 1950's. some to the 1960's. there has to be a way of bringing it up to date. those are things that will have to be negotiated.
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all be just say it can't managed by a central system in washington where washington decides how many nurses we need, how many farm workers. business will have to play a role and business will have to be the determining factor in order to make this work in a practical way. >> think for a man and that 10,000 people a day retire in the united states, seven days a week. we are a nation with unemployment and with a shortage of people that go to work at specific jobs. the secretary's point is on target. if you try to do this with an overseer of exactly how many left-handed nurses and right- handed carpenters get into the
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added states, we are doing the wrong thing. we need to do it on demand. if we have an extraordinary need to be competitive, and many, because of the price of energy and the fact the country is probably will have and have access to more energy than anyone else, you will see manufacturing jobs coming back to the united states. i think right now there is a couple of million people we could hire if they have the skills, if they had the education, if they had some of the other requirements to fitting into a high performance economy. it is hard to explain. how can you have that need? you also heard the store the other day, they are drilling for a lot of oil in north dakota.
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not a lot of people want to move there. it is a complicated issue. >> you also mentioned senator rubio. what about the house? are there any republicans who are champions for this? what kind of indication you get they are willing to pick this up? >> just about every issue that comes to the congress, and it is not going to happen. we have seen a lot of leadership in the house in the last session. we believe there is a growing number of people that would like to resolve this issue. this is a matter of the snowball going downhill. you start rolling and it gets bigger and bigger. i am not worried about whether
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we can get the votes in the house if we can get an agreement between labor and mallet -- management and other groups that have the business. if we can get that together, we will get the votes. when you have 14 opinions and everybody disagrees, it is harder to get the votes. >> we are going to be visiting with republican members beginning next week. we will continue to do that on the house side. we have spoken with a number of folks in the house to talk with them about immigration reform. and there is definitely a good development on the republican side. i am not sure they are as far as
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long as senator rubio is but i think that as they continue to talk with each other and they continue to talks between the house and the senate, we are going to get to that place. i think the determination is there and as has been said, if the people appear continue to press this case, i think we will get to a point where everyone agrees on what the big pieces are. >> i wanted to share with you some of the things we are doing at the conference. one of the things we will be doing, we will have a gathering of something called a catholic
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social gathering. that will bring the 700 or 800 catholics from all over the united states. while they are here, they will have door knocks. immigration reform is one of the programs of this year's gathering of the catholic social ministry. the second thing is we have something called the justice for immigrants campaign. we have begun a campaign to senators and congressmen, asking for their support and asking them to push on this issue. a lot of activity already. >> president obama of course promised in his first term to take a leadership role on immigration reform. it has been disappointing to many he did not get that moving. he has pledged again to do so. he talked about he wanted to see
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a bill early on. now he has introduced ideas for gun control. he has another debate over fiscal policy. what does leadership mean in your mind? what to do you want to hear in the state of the union? or is there a better idea something would come from the senate and the president would take a support role? >> it is a good question. part of the problem -- the answer is not another great speech about immigration reform. we need action. this is what happens when immigration reform is important but it is not the number one issue. you can keep on telling it the could you have to take care of the fiscal cliff, which will -- looks like it will go all the way to the end of that term. i do not think it's going to be
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over soon. guns, i think that has surpassed immigration reform on priorities. i'm not making a judgment. i'm trying to state some facts. you are right, and this has to become the number-one priority for the president and congress, get people together and say we are going to fix this problem. surpassed immigrationit has to e of nice sentences. >> i would only add that i think it is incumbent upon us as citizens and members of groups and advocates, non-governmental organizations to keep the pressure on the president so he remains focused. there will be always issues coming up. no one can predict his calendar for the next x number of months.
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>> we believe immigration reform is different. it has a past, present, and feature of bipartisan support. congress has many issues to grapple with. this range of speakers today shows that conservatives and liberals across the country want this president and congress to act. that is different than any other issue. >> democrats are talking about a path to citizenship. but senator rubio is talking about a visa and access to the legal system we have now.
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what would you support? >> from the standpoint of republicans, immigration reform. we support -- we are not going to second-guess people as long as they are making progress. in 2006, one of the guidelines we had was that we did not want the undocumented immigrants to cut in front of the line of people who have been waiting, to do it in a proper way. the result or the solution was a legalization process. they are legal. not everyone wants to be a u.s. citizen. some may want to go home and not go through the process. if they do want citizenship and a green card, then there is a
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process for that. the important thing is they are legal and they can come out of the shadows. that was the approach then and we will see how the two parties come to an agreement on what they should be. >> two last questions. >> [indiscernible] >> it is natural for the press to look for the differences. that is how you write a story. if everybody agrees, you do not write the story. this issue does not bother me one bit. if we get to the point where we have a program, a program to deal with immigration in this country in a fundamental way, we will resolve that question. if you want to know what the
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resolution is going to be, it will be a progressive issue. we set a series of steps in place to do this as we go forward. i think everybody has said that. there needs to be a process to citizenship. it is something that takes time but we follow it. that is where we are probably going to go. if those are the issues we have to resolve, we are in great shape. if i might suggest, the lady in the back with a camera, we will put you on tv, trying to ask a question all afternoon. fair deal? you canoing to ask if come to the microphone. secretary, i will get to later in spanish. so don't go away.
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>> somebody else stay and do it in spanish. i cannot do it. un poco. >> he said immigration reform is going to be a priority. i was wondering if you can expand on that. what steps besides going on to the hell, what else can you do? -- the hill, what else can you do? we know there is discussion as to move what is going to be in the bill. there is a consensus that there is a discussion as to who is going to present the bill. should it be the white house? or should we wait for a bipartisan bill? what would you prefer to see you presented? >> let me answer the second question first, in my opinion, that discussion, the engagement,
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the exchange, these kinds of meetings should carry on for a little while because we are building a sense of consensus between people who had more disagreement an agreement. i think that will move ahead quickly. as the secretary indicated, there are a lot of other things going on right now in the administration. we have to get people into critical jobs. we have to finish the reorganization of the house and senate, which happens every change. i would prefer not to have a lot of one of bill's. i would wait a few weeks or months until we come to a closer consensus and i think we would have a better chance of passing something through both houses. i do not care where it starts. i would like all three groups have an understanding of what it is going to be and let them go into a back room and figure out what the sequence will be.
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on the fact of what the chamber is going to do, we will do it in washington and around the country. we have thousands of the state and local chambers are around the country, we have 900 associations, businesses from different industries that have representatives all around the country. we have the millions and millions of people on our grass- roots network. and we will put it that all to work, when the time is right. right now we are building consensus when there are bills to be advanced. we will do at that. the worst thing to do in this town is to talk when nobody is listening. we need to get people ready to listen and then go out and advocate in a strong way. thank you. [captioning performed by national captioning institute] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2013] >> tavis smiley holds a form
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focusing on poverty in america and solutions. we will hear from several panelists including house speaker newt gingrich at the forum titled "vision for a new america." this weekend as the 57th inauguration. it is the official swearing-in at the white house, before noon eastern. our coverage includes your calls and more. it begins with a look at the inaugural address in 2009 at 10:30 a.m. eastern. on monday, the public ceremony is at noon at the capitol and other festivities,it is includie parade down pennsylvania avenue. we will take your phone calls and comments and our coverage on monday begins at 7:00 a.m. eastern on c-span, c-span radio, and the american bankers association
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held any event earlier today looking at taxes than the upcoming debate in sequestration. we will hear from members of the association, which includes a group of economists from the largest banks. this is just over 20 minutes. >> thank you >jim. good morning and thank you for coming. we have some interesting discussions over the last two days. i think the major take away from those discussions is that it is the view of the committee that the fiscal cliff agreement has created new head wins for the u.s. economy in 2013. real gdp growth in the nine states in the first half of 2013 before below 2%
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accelerating to 2.6% in the fourth quarter. the committee believes that the combination of tax hikes, a prolonged fight or the debt ceiling, and the possibility of severe spending cuts in 2013 have the potential to really stop this recovery in its tracks. one thing you will notice from our forecast table is that the recession probabilities from the committee are higher than normal. we still have the probability of a recession at 23% and for 2014, 20%. that is a little bit higher than what we typically see. we think the private sector is poised for sustainable growth. i think the housing numbers point to one area of strength,
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the housing market. the tax hikes at the start of 2013 will create a drag on gdp of at least 1.25%. the potential for additional budget and spending cuts from sequestration could add to the downside risks. we think resolving the debt ceiling in a timely manner and providing more clarity on policies could actually generate a boost in confidence and open the door for faster growth in the second half of 2013. looking at the labor market, we see lackluster growth in 2013 wing on job creation. we actually see gains of slowing in the first half of
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2013 before picking up. it is a little bit slower than in the 4 1/4 with the doctrines of around 50,000 per month. slower gdp growth is going to be driven, we think, by a consumer that is going to be hobbled by tax increases. we will remain positive in 2013 combined -- in 2013, but not appositive in consumer spending over the fourth quarter the second half will be particularly weighed
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down by less money in their paychecks. and we think as the year progresses, the strength of the housing market, the while the effects of the home price gains and perhaps to improvement in housing could lead to somewhat stronger consumer spending. we did see a 12% gain in housing starts this morning month over month. 37% year over year. these are strong numbers. we did see improvement in home construction, home sales, and home prices this year. housing starts, we forecast, will be up 17.8% this year. residential construction of 15%. and we will cease to -- sales gains of existing homes up
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7% and new home sales up 17% some strong numbers there. rising construction, we think it will be adding to gdp growth in 2013 of about two tenths of 1%. that will be a switch from what we have seen in the last several years of the doubt -- the housing downturn. rising home prices are also creating an important of the fact and it is creating -- wealthy fat and is creating -- wealth affect and is creating strength among consumers. on the external front, the committee believes export growth loraine week in 2013, rising just 2.2% year over year. recessions in europe and japan will be holding back exports
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here in the united states. this will be another headwind to the u.s. economy in 2013. the u.s. dollar does not appear to be much of a factor. the dollar will likely end the year about where it began. on the inflation front compound another year -- on the in place in front, a another year of a lower trend. our forecast in west texas on crude oil should average about $90 per barrel in 2013, little bit less than what it averaged last year. some of the committee members have varying opinions on inflation. some of the members did not feel that perhaps excelling growth in china and -- did feel that the accelerating growth in china and other emerging markets could put a bit of pressure on commodity growth
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and lead to inflation and the next 12 months or so. when we look at the continued treasury forecasts, the first quarter starting about 1.8%. and we will end the year a little over 2% by the fourth quarter of 2013. conventional mortgage rates to start the year about 3.5% and will end the year of about 3.7%. when you look at short-term interest rates, they will remain exceptionally low, as they are strongly anchored by fed monetary policy. when it comes to fed policy, the majority of the committee members saw q e three as continuing at the end -- at the continuing rate of asset purchases of about 85 billion
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per month and saw the majority of those increasing the fed's balance sheet by about $1 trillion this year. but there were varying opinions on the committee that the purchases may be scaled back before the end of the year. the federal reserve, certainly recently, adopted new threshold targets for the fed funds rate and the possibility of raising the fed funds rate. those targets threshold are set at 2.5% on the inflation forecast and 6.5% on the employment rate. and the committee does not see the economy hitting those inflation target any time soon. the content of the committee was that in some time in may, 2015 would be the most likely
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timeframe. there were various opinions on this as well. some thought it might not be in 2016 and others thought it would be in the middle of 2014. in terms of bank credit, we saw that the banking industry is starting to support the u.s. economy through financing of growth. we have a bank credit growth over the past year and we expect that credit growth to continue this year. landing, we think, will be up 6.5% in 2013. loans to consumers and individuals up 5% for the year. finally, on the federal budget deficit and debt, the committee sees that the budget deficit will continue to decline over the next two years. but we do not characterize the debt and deficit at unsustainably high levels. we do think the deficit is reduced to $925 billion in 2013 and narrowed further, to $728
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billion in 2014. that is down from $1.1 trillion last year. that gives you an overview of the committee consensus opinion and i would be happy to answer any additional questions you might how about the committee's outlook. i will be happy to entertain other questions as well. yes? >> just to clarify a little bit on the gdp dragon on the tax hike, was that on the payroll and income tax increases? >> that is correct. >> the 1.25% dragon, was out for the whole year? -- the 1.25% drag, was that for the whole year? >> we think it will be for the
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whole year of fiscal 2013. >> with the labour market and some improvement on as quick as it was, without just -- there was some sentiment that it might be slowing down. >> we are seeing drags on consumer spending, but also from the ongoing recession in europe and japan. it will hold back export growth and be a head wind for u.s. manufacturing. we do think the monthly job gains could slow down a bit from the pace we saw in the fourth quarter. we might see a little bit of recovery has europe and japan start to grow. >> [inaudible] there seems to be a wide divergence with what your panel saw before.
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what are you seeing that the fed is not? >> that is a good point. the question was, our four consensus forecast is quite a bit lower than the fed central tendency is for economic growth in economic 2013. i get a sense from our discussions that we see the fiscal drag as may be a bigger factor than maybe the fed did the last time they did their projections. particularly, the potential for a prolonged debt ceiling fight and the sequestration spending cuts that are still enacted to take place, unless legislation changes in march of this year. how democrat to slow growth is pretty large on the sequestration spending -- and the potential to slow growth
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is pretty large on the sequestration spending cuts. we see a multiplier from those cuts. the drag from that could be a bit stronger. one thing we did note in our discussions was that a lot of these in from the policy changes are static analyses. we know that confidence effects and multiplier effects could have a bigger impact than some of the policy centers here. >> is it true that the fed has a tendency to overestimate growth? >> i think it is true if you look at the last of the lawyers that they have overestimated growth in the year ahead. -- in the last couple of years that they have overestimated growth in the year ahead. i will not say that is their pattern, but if you look at the record, in the past couple of years they have been a little too optimistic.
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>> as you know, japan has a new prime minister and he is pushing more monetary easing for the bank of japan. many private economists are focused on some of ford division of the japanese economy -- some upside division of the japanese economy this year. did you consider that in his focus? the global economy, how do you look at china or other emerging economies? >> we did not spend our time discussing japan. we spent most of our time discussing the fiscal risks here the u.s. because we see that as the number one concern for the hard look at this year. the second biggest concern -- for the outlook this year. the second is concerned is the
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eurozone crisis. while the financial pressures eased there, the fundamentals are still pretty weak and there is still concern about the financial crisis in europe coming back to haunt us sometime down the road. but yes, obviously, more policy in japan is something that would be helpful. we certainly want stronger brought -- strong growth abroad to help our exports and our economy. we talked about where to look -- growth might come from a globally and we certainly did see growth in south america and the emerging asia. that will help the global outlook to some extent. a lot of that growth is going to happen in the second half of the year rather than the first half. it will be a momentum thing that is going to change. even as a policy response in
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japan, which seems to be very forceful, there will be a delay before it starts to affect the japanese economy. >> how confident are you in your housing forecast? so much of what we saw last year was institutional investors. are you confident that this recovery is real? >> the consensus of the committee is, yeah, we think the recovery is real this time. it is not being supported by policy measures like the first time home buyer tax credit. and when you look at policy measures and household formation rates, we are hitting a bottom. and the fundamental root of piercing in housing starts and home sales is consistent with what we've seen in the house with housing recovery. we're coming from such low levels of activity that the committee believes this sort of activity at the current pace could continue for some time.
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we could correct double-digit rates and housing starts for the next five years and still not get back to where rework. -- where we were. like i said, there have been a lot of people at the lane buying in-house. and some of the people on the events seen the home prices rising may be entering the market. we still see investor demand as strong. there are not as many investors out there. a lot of economists have been looking for the shuttle inventory of housing to hit the marketplace. -- the shadow inventory of housing to hit the marketplace. but we have not releasing that. we are slowly working off the excesses'. we are seeing some green shoots there that we think will continue.
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>> and you see any impact at all for potential qe on the housing market? >> the majority of the committee thinks q e will continue this year at the current pace. no, we do not alesi much of an impact, -- we do not really see much of an impact because we think long- term rates will remain below. shourd interest rates spike, that would change many committee members views. but with inflation low and the continued slack in the economy and the continued elevated an unemployment rates, we think interest rates will remain an attractive area for the housing recovery to continue. >> these projections are promised on what kind of set -- what kind of resolution of the debt ceiling? >> that is a good question. i think everybody has factored into their forecast the tax changes that were put in place with the fiscal agreement at the beginning of the year.
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i think there are varying opinions about whether sequestration spending cuts will kick in ordaz -- or not. i think all of those opinions were factored into this forecast. some on the committee believe we will see sequestration spending cuts for the entire year. if that happens, a drought on gdp growth will be substantially higher, probably closer to 3 percentage point. but there are those who think will see a couple of months of sequestration, or not at all. there is a wide opinion their and our consensus forecast. -- there is a wide opinion in our consensus forecast. >> [indiscernible] falling until 2016. what does the committee think that says about the economy and
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what is holding back job creation? >> fundamentally what is holding back job creation is the lack of demand. we are just not seeing the growth rates that we need to see to prompt employers to hire and elsewhere. there's a lot of discussion around policy uncertainty. there are many who believe that the uncertain environment that is prevalent in the nation's capital is adding to some of those concerns. we certainly hear from some of -- small-business customers and others who do not know what their tax rates are going to be or what areas the government may cut back on spending. it is a difficult position for people to wait in. even if they are seen profitability and growth in their business, they are trying to get by with what they haven't been rather than commit to -- with what a house rather than commit to new investments.
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>> you know how much of a world of participation rate is going to play in unemployment going forward? we have seen a sort of stabilization. will it hit the bottom? and have all of the we're factors played out and now it is just demographics? >> one dindane -- one thing that surprised everybody and one of the reasons we have had a lot of progress on the unemployment rate is past years we have not seen a lot of people re-enter the labour force. participation rates have been pretty much trending down. there is some stabilization that we are seeing now and some are speculating that we might see a little more reentry, but there are varying opinions on that. some on the committee are expecting a lot of people to re- enter. these people have left the labour force, maybe they took an early retirement, but they are
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out for a considerable time frame. that is where we still have the unemployment rate dropping. we do not see millions of people entering the labour force, which could push the unemployment rate higher. >> if there are no other questions, we will conclude. thanks for coming. [captioning performed by national captioning institute] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2013] >> in about 40 minutes, pbs's tavis smiley holds his form on poverty in america. we will have that live for you when it begins at 6:30 p.m. eastern here on c-span. earlier today, white house spokesman jay carne held his weekly daily briefing. they talked about upcoming
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inauguration, and proposals and more. we will show you as much as we can until the tavis smiley event gets under way. >> good afternoon, everyone. thanks for being here. i have no announcements. i'll go straight to questions. julie. >> thank you. there's a lot of conflicting information coming out of algeria today. i'm wondering if you can tell us what the status is of the americans that had been held hostage. >> it is our understanding that there are americans involved, but i would say a couple of things. one, we condemn in the strongest terms a terrorist attack on bp personnel and facilities in algeria, and we are closely monitoring the situation. we are in contact with algerian authorities and our international partners, as well as with bp's security office in london. unfortunately, the best information we have at this time, as i said, indicates that u.s. citizens are among the hostages. but we don't have at this point more details to provide to you. we're certainly concerned about reports of loss of life and are seeking clarity from the government of algeria. >> but at this point you can't say whether those americans are alive or dead? >> again, i just can only say
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that we are deeply concerned about any loss of innocent life and are seeking clarity from the government of algeria. >> the u.s. obviously has helped other countries with hostage rescue missions, just last week, with the french in somalia. did the u.s. offer to assist the algerians in this mission? >> well, i can say that we're in contact with algerian authorities and our international partners. i don't have anything more on that context for you. i mean, this is a situation, as you know, that involved a bp facility with, as we understand it, personnel from a variety of different countries. >> but in those conversations with the algerians, has there been discussion about what role the u.s. could play? any offers of assistance? >> not that i'm aware of. but i just don't have details to provide on those conversations. this is an ongoing situation and we're seeking clarity. >> and just quickly on the president's gun violence proposals from yesterday, he said he would put the full
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weight of the office behind efforts to push for those measures, and i'm wondering what that actually means. will we see him travel? will we see him get ofa involved? there was obviously an email from messina today on this. >> well, i think as you saw, that email went out, and i think that the president meant what he said. i don't have a schedule of events for you, a schedule of actions or a strategy to lay out to you. but the president absolutely meant what he said, that he is going to put the weight of his office behind this effort. he also meant what he said when he acknowledged that achieving these proposals will be difficult. if having an assault weapons ban become law again were easy it would never have expired. if the variety of other actions that the president proposes we take as a nation were without conflict we wouldn't be having this discussion. so he's made clear that it requires everyone
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coming together, including people who have not traditionally supported the idea of taking further action to reduce gun violence or some of these ideas. we've already heard a number of voices, from both the democratic party and the republican party of individuals who've said they are looking at this problem in a new way because of what happened in newtown, and that's very important to this process. it's also very important, as the president said, that the american public speak out, because we cannot achieve this if the american people don't demand it. and so, as i think i mentioned earlier in the week, you can fully expect that as part of this effort we will continue to try to engage the american people and have their voices heard and their concerns heard and their demands heard when it comes to taking common- sense action to reduce gun violence in america. >> but at this point, no specifics about what that actually entails?
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>> i don't have any -- i mean, again, he just made this announcement yesterday. he has s
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announcement yesterday. he has a piece of business to take care of on monday, and a whole host of other matters. but this is a priority, as i think he made very clear yesterday, and there will be more to come. >> jay, going back to algeria, was the algerian government in touch with the united states before the raid? >> i can simply say that it's premature to get into these types of questions. right now our priority is determining the status of the americans involved and gaining a full understanding of what took place. as i said to julie, this is a fluid situation. we are seeking clarity from the algerian government about this matter, and obviously, we are focused most intently on the status of americans. we are in conversations with -- consultation with the algerian government, but i just don't have any more details for you. >> i mean, you said that you were in consultations. i'm just curious if you were in consultations before the raid. >> again, i just don't have any more details for you on that. this is a fluid situation. i wouldn't want to say something that turned out not to be true, so i'll leave it at that. >> what is the u.s. assessment of -- >> jackie got that -- i appreciate it. [laughter] >> what is the u.s. assessment of al qaeda's link to this? >> we certainly heard reports of people taking responsibility, claims -- making claims of responsibility for this terrorist attack, but we have not been able to, thus far, confirm those claims. >> but is that something that the u.s. is involved in, in trying to figure that out? >> certainly. as a broad matter, we're obviously very interested in and focused on terrorist groups and terrorist actions in the region and around the world, and so trying to find out who's responsible for something like this is something we are
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endeavoring to do. but we just have not -- i don't have information now that allows me to confirm or rebut those reports. >> you said earlier in the week that the united states would consider providing logistical support to france and mali. how does this development affect that? >> well, i'm not sure that it does. i mean, we share the goal -- the french goal of denying terrorists in mali a safe haven, denying terrorists in the region a safe haven, and we'd note that the government of mali has asked for french support in their fight against aqim. as you know, the government of france has asked for some additional intelligence and logistic support from the united states and, as i said the other day, we're considering those requests. we have some unique airlift capability and we are working with the french to provide them support in moving troops and equipment. as we've said previously, we are also providing intelligence support. >> all right, just briefly on one other topic. you mentioned that the president has an event on monday. can you give us any color about how he's preparing for his speech, and any little tidbits about what he might say?
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>> i have no preview of his remarks. the president i think is very appreciative of the fact that the american people have given him this opportunity to deliver a second inaugural address. he, as you know, takes very seriously speeches of this kind and is very engaged in the process. he's working on his remarks. but i don't have any details for you. i think it's the kind of thing we really want to turn over to him for monday. >> is that open coverage on monday? [laughter] >> yes, it is. >> jay, what do you say to the local officials, including the governor of mississippi, who are suggesting that if you succeed in getting new laws passed they won't enforce them on the gun issue?
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thosel, i didn't see particular remarks, john. there are a variety of actions that the president has proposed. some of them are executive actions. some of the most important of them, as the president made clear, require congressional action. and i'll leave it to lawyers to sort out, if we are fortunate enough to achieve these pieces of legislation, how those laws would be enforced. but let's be clear here. there is nothing the president proposed yesterday that would result, if enacted, in anyone -- any law-abiding citizen in america losing a gun. the president made clear yesterday his full support for the second amendment and the second amendment rights of american citizens. he also made clear that we have an obligation, and american citizens, including our most vulnerable, youngest american citizens, have rights, too. and we have an obligation to uphold those rights, including the rights of seven-
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year-olds to live without the fear of being gunned down in their own school. so we as a society need to come together and take common-sense actions that do not affect americans' second amendment rights, which the president supports, but do put in place laws and actions that address this problem; that, for example, provide for a system of background checks for those who would purchase weapons that is comprehensive, that does not contain gaping loopholes. that's something that a vast majority of the american people believe is sensible and they support. and the president sincerely hopes that that support, which comes from around the country, that comes from democrats and republicans, that
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comes from nra members, sportsmen and women, from suburban areas, rural areas and urban areas, will result in congress taking appropriate action. >> so what happens to the, by some estimates, 2 million assault-style weapons that are out there now and more? what happens to those after a ban? is this a ban on -- >> this is not -- >> -- the old ones are grandfathered in? it's a ban on -- >> yes, this is a ban on further manufacture, on new weapons. >> so how effective can something like that be, given that the -- i mean, look at the sales that are going on even now. >> well, i think the president said that there is no question -- that there's no single piece of legislation, no single action that we can take that would eradicate all acts of evil, all acts of violence, that would absolutely prevent every terrible shooting in the
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terrible shooting in the future. we know that, and the president is aware of that. but we should take actions that reduce the possibility; that through the reduction in the possibility of the kinds of things we saw in newtown and aurora and columbine and elsewhere, lives are saved. and we can't let the perfect be the enemy of the good here. we can't let the fact that there will of course continue to be gun violence in america prevent us from taking actions to reduce gun violence in america, taking actions to make sure that we are doing everything we can to live up to our first obligation, which is to protect our children. there's no single action here that solves this problem. even this collection of actions won't solve the problem. but it will, the president believes, reduce gun violence, and that's a worthy goal.
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>> and with the high-capacity magazines, the same thing holds true, that that would just prevent -- ban the manufacture of new -- >> that's my understanding. i think we provided a bunch of fact sheets and stuff yesterday on the details, but that is my understanding. but i would encourage you to look at the stuff that the policy people put together and provided to you yesterday. >> and then just two questions on how you go about getting this passed -- the obvious uphill battle you face in congress -- one, that the grassroots campaign robert gibbs is suggesting, that the great campaign apparatus that helped the president win reelection should now be activated full force on this. will it be? and will the president be reaching out personally to -- that there are 11 democrats in the senate with either an a or b rating to the nra. is he going to be talking individually to each of those democratic senators? >> i think you can expect the president to be engaged with members of congress, including democratic senators. i think as you saw in the wake of newtown, the president actually spoke with some democratic senators about this issue, including senator manchin of west virginia.
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those conversations will continue. and i have no specific announcement to make about next steps in this effort. but you can be sure that the president will use the power of his office to try to bring about fulfillment of these proposals, because he thinks they're the right things to do, and he thinks that we as a nation need to move forward, and that we can take steps that help reduce gun violence in this country and help protect our children, including our youngest children. i'll move around a little bit. jackie. >> could you just expand a little more on the inaugural on sunday? i mean, it sounds like it's going to be just family. >> i can try. >> could you say exactly who is going to be there; that it will be no advisors or -- and why that is?
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>> it's a small room, and -- >> but you could choose another room. >> well, i think it's -- this is the official swearing-in, as called for by the constitution. and the chief justice will swear in the president. i gave some details. i think we corrected about the bible that will be used on sunday. it will be family. i don't have a list of names for which family members will be there. there will be a full press pool there. and that's a pretty large group, with a lot of equipment. and i'll be there. >> but it will be more presumably than just mrs. obama and the daughters and the president? >> i believe there will be some family members, but i don't have -- i'll see if i have -- if i can get information on which additional members will be there. >> and then at the dinner affair afterwards, who would be involved? >> i'm sorry, which affair? >> on sunday, after the private swearing-in. >> i'll have to check on that.
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i'm not sure. there's a series of events, but i'm not sure which one you're referring to. >> well, just what he will be -- >> what's he going to do after he's sworn in? >> -- participating in immediately after he's sworn in. >> i'll try to find out. >> there have been several news reports about an incident in syria. december 23rd, six people died from some sort of gas attack. several people on the ground seem to believe that it was a chemical agent. the state department did a couple of investigations. they couldn't corroborate that. on tuesday, the white house put out a statement saying only that it didn't match what you know about syria's chemical weapons program. they didn't say what you think happened that day. and i'm also wondering, are you 100 percent sure that no chemical weapons have been used in syria? >> the state department addressed this issue yesterday. one of our diplomatic posts received anecdotal information from a third party regarding an alleged incident in syria in december. per normal procedure, this information was relayed to the state department in washington. we looked into these allegations at the time we
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received the information, and found no credible evidence to corroborate or confirm that chemical weapons were used. we continue to closely monitor syria's proliferation of sensitive materials and facilities, and have been consistent and clear about our red lines regarding chemical weapons in syria. as the president said, if the assad regime makes the tragic mistake of using chemical weapons or fails to meet its obligation to secure them, they will be held accountable. in other words, we received third-party information. we checked it out and found no credible evidence to corroborate or confirm it. >> of course, the problem is that this evidence is unattainable inside homs. and use of chemical agents is notoriously hard to verify. what is your level of confidence that -- >> again, we found no credible evidence, and the fact that a third party provided this anecdotal information led to us checking it out appropriately,
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and we found no credible information that would confirm it. >> my question is -- >> but your question is -- >> what is your level of confidence that if a chemical agent was used, that you would be able to tell? >> well, again, i'm not able from here to discuss the procedures by which we evaluate these kinds of things. but i can tell you that we found no credible evidence, and we are -- we remain, as we have been throughout, vigilant about this issue and very clear with the assad regime about our red lines. >> jay, on algeria, can you just talk about the president's level of involvement in this? i didn't catch that earlier, in terms of -- has he been working the phones? is he being briefed regularly since so many americans are involved? what is the president's level of engagement? >> well, the president has been updated regularly by his national security team on this matter. as you would expect, i have no other details for you, no calls to read out. but we are, as an administration, in contact with the algerian government and seeking clarity about the events that have been reported. and as you know, there's been a
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variety of conflicting reports about the events there. so we are in communication with the algerian government, and the president is being regularly updated. >> the secretary of state yesterday spoke to the head of their government, i believe, but there's been no calls between the president and -- >> i have no calls of the president to read out to you. >> okay. following on john about guns, when the president has traveled on other issues like payroll tax cut or other things to engage the american public, as you say, he's mostly been pressuring the republicans. how -- as you mentioned after newtown, he spoke to senator manchin, and at that time in december, senator manchin was suggesting he was open to the idea of an assault weapons ban. this past weekend he seemed to suggest he wasn't. yesterday, al franken, who is a more liberal democrat, kind of hesitated about whether he supported the assault weapons ban; today he says he supports the principle of it -- not making clear he supports the bill. my question is: you've pressured republicans before; what is going to do different this time to convince his fellow democrats who are the swing votes here that this is the right thing to do?
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>> he's been very clear about this as recently as yesterday, which he believes we all need to reflect upon the problem, examine our consciences, and decide what the right course of action is, and decide whether or not common-sense measures that help protect our most vulnerable citizens, our children, from gun violence are the right thing to do. he firmly believes they are, and he'll be having that conversation with republicans and democrats and with americans more broadly. seen, i think that we've some change in the atmosphere around this issue since the tragedy in newtown, and we've seen some gun rights supporters who haven't abandoned their support for gun rights, just as the president has not, but who
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view this issue now in a different way and believe that common-sense action is the right way to go. and the president hopes to build on that. but he made very clear yesterday that he understands that this is a challenge. these things aren't law -- at least the things that he's proposed congress pass -- because they're hard. bethey weren't, they would law. and he will work with members of both parties to try to get them passed. >> but when you repeat today the full weight of the presidency -- yesterday i went back to the transcript and the word "hollywood" was never used by the president or the vice president in remarks yesterday. obviously, guns are a big part here, but why not also take on hollywood? he's taking on the nra. if this is the full weight of the presidency, why not take on -- >> well, he's directed as part of the actions he took that the cdc study gun violence and causes of gun violence. i mean, there's a -- ignorance is not an acceptable position
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to adopt, that it's better not to know. we need to know and it's worth studying, and we should embrace the science and allow the research to go forward so we can learn more about the effect of violence in the entertainment industry -- depicted through entertainment -- and the impact it may or may not have on society and on children. so that was a very specific item that he did include as part of his package. and i think generally, the proposals the president put forward yesterday were recognized as fairly substantive and comprehensive, and that's one of them. >> very last thing, on the debt ceiling. republicans like pat toomey have suggested that you should prioritize what debts you pay off so that things like social security get paid -- payments. as the president said in his
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press conference last week, he wants them to be paid; wants to make sure people don't lose their benefits. why not prioritize those payments? i just want to give you a chance to respond to the republican plan that's out there. >> sure. well, there's not a specific plan; there's somebody talking about it. but let's be real here. there is no off-ramp. there is no way to mitigate the horrific economic consequences of default. choosing whether you pay social security beneficiaries or combat troops in afghanistan, or veterans who depend on the va for benefits, or bondholders -- these are choices that are about default. and the fact is default is not an acceptable option here. congress has to simply do its job and pay the bills that they've already racked up, meet the obligations that they have already made.
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and then we continue to debate how we move forward to reduce our deficit in a balanced way, how we move forward to get our health care spending under control and reform our tax system. but we cannot play chicken with the full faith and credit of the united states. we have seen in recent days and weeks a number of republicans and a number of interest groups allied with republicans make clear their position that flirting with default is a disastrous idea, it is a terrible idea. and we certainly agree with that. and i think you've seen it now from a number of places, and the president has made clear he's not going to negotiate over raising the debt ceiling.
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it is an obligation that congress retains for itself. if it feels it can't handle it, we would happily, as the president said, take that obligation on to the executive branch. but we have to pay our bills. we're the united states of america; we are not a third-tier economy that goes month to month or every half year and casting doubt on whether or not we're going to meet our obligations. that's not who we are. major, then alexis. >> as you noted, jay, the situation in algeria is very fluid and you are trying to discern fact from fiction. once that process is finished, does the president intend to communicate with the country about what he knows and what has happened? >> well, i think -- i have no scheduling announcements to make on behalf of the president, and i think we're focused now on finding out and seeking clarity about the events in algeria. and once we know more and once we have more that we can convey to you, we'll make assessments
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based on that. >> does the white house believe that there is something at work in mali or algeria that is moving or shifting in a way that's maybe catching the american public's attention for the first time? threat patterns? different areas of conflict? an aggressiveness on al qaeda or affiliates that needs perhaps more communication with the american public, a greater sense of what's actually going on here? >> we here in the white house and throughout the administration are intensely focused on al qaeda and its affiliates. i think that has been made abundantly clear by the actions that we've taken, and that continues to be the case. we work with our allies to counter the activities of aqim; and clearly, aqim and affiliated extremist groups do pose a threat to our interests in that region, even if they
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have not posed a direct threat to the homeland, like al qaeda central in afghanistan and pakistan, or al qaeda in the arabian peninsula. but this is something -- this is a multi-headed beast, if you will, and we are vigorous in our efforts to combat organizations like this and work with our allies to do so around the region and the world. >> on the question of gun legislation, it was made clear to us in the briefing yesterday that the white house will not send a comprehensive bill that contains all of gun control measures to capitol hill. it will defer to, in the case of the assault weapons ban and magazine size, senator feinstein, senator schumer on one aspect of it; senator gillibrand to another. and there are some house democrats who would prefer just the opposite approach -- a comprehensive bill, one vote, one package to concentrate the mind of the american public and to achieve a better legislative
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result. can you explain to us the strategic insight the white house has as to why it's better that the white house not to write it and send it up in one comprehensive bill? >> well, i'd answer it two ways. one, some of the legislation that we are talking about here, specifically the legislation that has to do with the assault weapons and with high-capacity ammunition clips preexisted, and senator feinstein has done a lot of work on these issues and is working, and we are working with her to develop updated legislation that addresses these matters. and so that -- we believe that's the appropriate way to go. how this plays out legislatively is obviously hard to know, and i would point you to experts on the hill about how it will in both the senate and the house. our interest is in moving this entire package in a way that is most successful. and we obviously depend in part for our decisions about strategy on our allies in congress and how they see the
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best direction to move. >> but it is an organic white house decision not to send a piece of legislation it drafts in one big package, and i'm just curious -- >> yes, we haven't -- we're not doing that. but we're doing that -- i mean, there's a reason here, which is that the assault weapons ban did exist, was on the books for 10 years, including a portion of it that dealt with ammunition clips. that legislation has been something -- renewal of it is something the president has supported for a long time. and senator feinstein is the author of that bill, and we support efforts to update it and move it forward. >> does this strategy reflect a fear that if you put everything in there with the assault weapons ban, that could pull it down and that you have a better chance of achieving some of these other goals if they're adjudicated, if you will, in congress separately? >> i can't speak to that directly. i just know that we are working with senator feinstein, working with other senators in the senate, and we'll work with house members to try to move something forward here.
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the reality is, as we've talked about, that none of this is going to be easy. easyhe fact that it's not doesn't mean we shouldn't try. >> -- some of it easier in isolation? >> well, again, i think that's a question about legislative tactics that you can address to congress, members of congress, and that i think i've addressed here. we are pursuing a course here that includes the legislation that senator feinstein is working on, other legislation -- you mentioned senator schumer. and we will continue to press the entire agenda the president put forward. ari. >> i'd like to -- >> sorry, i did say alexis, and then ari. getting the "a"s here -- then alexander. >> two quick follow-ups. on ed's question: if congress today -- since we've already gone over the debt ceiling -- if congress today wanted to legislate on this, i'm confused about -- >> are they even here? [laughter] >> i'm just saying, in a hypothetical, perfect world, if they were going to do this today, i'm not sure i understand whether the president has
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signaled how long a duration he's seeking, what dollar amount for the debt ceiling. how would they act if he's not negotiating and he hasn't suggested what it is he'd sign? >> look, there is a long tradition here of congress acting to raise the debt ceiling. this is a power that they've brought -- that they've given themselves to do. and the point is -- without drama and delay. a monthly extension is drama, okay? congress should simply do its job. it should not -- we're not going to negotiate over extending the debt ceiling. >> but is the president saying he's willing to revisit this within a year? would he like five years? i mean, what is he saying? >> i think the president made clear the other day that he would happily take on the responsibility himself if congress can't handle it. so the fact is, congress should simply extend the debt ceiling, and do so in a manner that causes no concern to the economy and to global markets, that does not in any way suggest that washington is about to engage in another process that
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results in a self-inflicted wound to the economy. so it's sort of a moot point because it should just be extended in a way that does not raise concern about whether or not the united states of america pays its bills. >> okay. another follow-up to what major was saying. legislative strategy on guns: the president obviously tasked vice president biden to do this. is vice president biden going to be the white house lobbyist on guns on the hill? and then, secondarily, it's been reported that the president's white house lobbyist, rob nabors, is going to be elevated to be deputy chief of staff. so my question is, do lawmakers and staffers, are they going to learn soon who the contact person is for the legislative affairs if strategy is so important? >> let me take the end of your question first by saying that i have no personnel announcements to make. [laughter] secondly, you can fully expect the vice president to be engaged in this process.
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it makes sense since he led the effort that produced the recommendations that led to the president's event yesterday and the proposals he put forward, and the vice president has a long history on these matters. he was chairman of the judiciary committee in the senate. he was a primary author of the crime bill that included the assault weapons ban in 1994. and we'll continue to be engaged in these issues. but i don't have a roster of individuals who will make up the legislative team, but you can absolutely report with great certainty that the vice president will be involved. ari. >> i'd just like to try to take another crack at the inauguration questions, since this may be the last briefing of the president's first term. he's been so busy the last few weeks with the fiscal cliff and with guns. have you seen any moments of introspection you could share with us about reaching the end of this momentous term and beginning a new one? >> yes. [laughter]
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>> that you can share with us? >> and you can share -- that was the key phrase. and will this be the last briefing of the first term? >> the important question first. what moments of introspection -- >> somebody voted over here and said yes. [laughter] i think the president takes, obviously, this responsibility enormously seriously, and feels grateful for the opportunity that the american people have given him. i'm not -- he said i think in the wake of the election that he didn't get -- he didn't seek reelection just to be reelected. he believes that we have work to do, and he believes that both the agenda he has put forward so far and the agenda he will put forward in the future will help this country move forward
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in a variety of ways. this is something he feels very deeply. i think it's been reported and i think it's fair to say that the reelection was in some ways for all of us here a humbling experience because it was an assertion by the electorate that said, despite how hard the last four years have been on this country because of the grave economic crisis that we were in when the president took office, the steps that we've taken have been the right steps and more work needs to be done. and i know he views it that way. as far as -- all i can tell you is the president in general when he works on a speech writes in longhand on a yellow pad, and
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i've seen some yellow pads filled with writing of late around, but i don't have any more details on the speech. peter. >> a couple of questions following up first on what you said about weapons. you said this is a ban on further manufacture on future weapons. i'm curious what that means for weapons that already have been manufactured and exist in the stocks of retailers around this country, and why that wouldn't motivate manufacturers now to manufacture them in bulk and then store them up if they have the ability to distribute them after. >> well, it's a fair question. i think the original assault weapons ban was on future manufacture, and i think senator feinstein and others can speak with you about the writing of the legislation and some of the reasoning behind that. again, we do not believe that any single measure that congress can turn into law or that the president can take, or that even we as a nation can do, will eliminate this problem, will assure us that there won't
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be another terrible mass shooting in the future. but these actions -- if we take them -- will, the president believes, reduce the possibility and therefore save lives and that's why they're so important to take. >> and then following up perhaps on what ari said a second ago -- as opposed to the introspective moments about the past four years in this place, i'm curious the president's thoughts as we now head into this weekend, given the fact that four years ago they were approaching 2 million people expected here; this time, maybe 800,000 per the estimates. there were 10 inaugural balls; this time, just a couple. how does he view this moment differently than he did four years ago as a sort of milestone moment in his presidency? >> well, i'm not -- i don't really have anything more for you on his perspective. i think he'll provide that when he speaks on monday.
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i would suggest to you that there will be a very good crowd on monday. and i would point you to pic, the inaugural committee, to explain to you that the number of balls does not -- there's not an exact coefficient between the number of people going to the balls. but there was, we felt i think, and the president felt and the committee felt that this appropriate in terms of the number of events and the participants in them. stephen. >> as a general matter when american hostages are in a situation overseas, would the government expect or hope to be informed in advance before some kind of rescue operation or attack on the hostage takers? >> that's a very clever way of asking a question that has already been asked. and i just don't have -- as it relates to the situation in algeria, i just don't have more information for you at this time. we'll certainly try to get you more information as we have it
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and as we have in a way that we believe is verifiable. >> okay, can i try one on iran? how did the white house interpret president ahmadinejad's remarks yesterday that he would have to transform the iranian economy because of the impact of western sanctions? does that augur any hope for any flexibility in the iranian position, do you think? >> i wouldn't look at it that way. i would say that it is another indicator, of which there have been many in recent weeks, months and the past year, that the comprehensive international, multinational effort to sanction iran has been effective in the -- >> all of this at our video library at we take you live to george washington library -- george washington university library. tavis smiley is hosting a four
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and they're about to get under way. >> we are delighted to be here in the nation's capital on the campus of george washington university. we have been here now three years always trying to bring the nation to come to terms -- help the nation come to terms with an issue of national importance. for the last few years, we have been talking ad nauseum about the issue of poverty and how it is we get serious about making poverty a priority in this country. we will mix this up tonight. it seems to me that teetering on cliffs and bumping up against ceilings is not a good economic policy for a nation. we are going to talk tonight about what each and every one of us can do as americans, what agency we have to push our leaders to make the reduction and eradication of poverty a priority in this nation, and there is something specific that we want your help tonight to do
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to help push president obama as we sit here tonight on the campus of gw. the president will be inaugurated for a second term in just a few days, on a holiday honoring the person i regard as the greatest american this country has ever produced -- that is my own assessment -- martin luther king, jr. [applause] so the president will clearly be in the foreground, but dr. king looms large as the backdrop. now, word comes from the white house that they will use his bible for this historic and iconic celebration, so we will talk tonight about how we honor the legacy of dr. king by focusing more attention on the issue that he gave his life for -- the poor. king once said we have to civilize ourselves by the immediate abolition of poverty. obviously, we are not quite
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there yet, but we of tonight's conversation will aid us and of that as in trying to make sure that we look out for the least among us. i am pleased tonight to be joined by an all-star panel. i want to introduce them one by one and jumped right into the conversation. i want to start by thanking c- span for carrying this program live around the world tonight. [applause] thank you, c-span. as the conversation gets under way, we will tell you more about what you can do at home or wherever you might be watching tonight to join in the conversation, but for now, let me introduce the novice panel of persons who are going to mix it up tonight on this issue of poverty. i am pleased to be joined by the author of "fire in the ashes: 25 years among the poorest children in america." no one has written more about the link between education and poverty then my friend jonathan cole. she is the director of the
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center for hundred-free communities, and the associate prof. at augusta university's school of health. please welcome marietta --- marian chilton. he has taught at harvard and princeton and is now teaching as professor of philosophy and christian practice at union theological seminary. yes -- is honored to be a co- host of eight radio program with him -- i am honored to be co- host of a radio program with him. please welcome dr. cornel west. [applause] to my right, just off a plane literally a couple of hours ago from ethiopia, doing his work on poverty and as special adviser to the united nations, but when he is here in the states, as i'm glad he is tonight, he is director of the earth institute and professor of health policy and management at columbia, please welcome our friend jeffrey sachs.
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[applause] to my left, he was gracious to accept my invitation to be here tonight. if we're going to do something tonight about poverty in america, we have to mix it up. we will talk later in this program about what we want you to help us help the president to do. it will require both parties in this town come together, so you're so pleased to have tonight former speaker of the house and candidate for the white house himself -- i am pleased to have tonight former speaker of the house and candidate for the white house himself, newt gingrich. she is executive director of the national unique -- national nurses united and california nurses association, the national nurses organizing committee, and they are pushing an issue in this country that is starting to gain more and more steam called the robin hood tax. you are going to learn about it tonight. please welcome roseanne demoro. he is now the dean of university
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of indiana school of public affairs out with a new book just now, the first i know of that gives suggestions and ideas -- specific public policy ideas he believed both the left and right can agree on. please welcome my friend john gramm. and she has a new assignment, just elected the congressional chair of the black caucus out of ohio. please welcome congresswoman marcia fudge. [applause] jeffrey, i want to start with you, in part because you have come the farthest, i guess you get to go first. i will keep you awake. i want to start, though -- i'm not the one that likes to use a bunch of statistics because they can be hard to follow. because this program right now
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is being seen live across the nation, i want to make sure that those watching can get a chance to contextualize what happened with the issue of poverty across the nation. these are issues that come from 1989. here's what we know since 1989. i want to start in washington, the nation's capital, because this is where the last time we took poverty seriously -- to my mind -- the war on poverty, and we will debate that tonight, i'm sure, but the last time we took it seriously during the johnson years. that program started in washington. give me two minutes to give you some sense and this audience some sense of what has happened to poverty since 1989. talking specifically about income inequality -- the top 5% of washington, d.c., household -- in the nation's capital in the origination of the world -- the top 5% of households made more than $500,000 on average
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last year. top 5%. $500,000 on average last year. the bottom 20% made less than $9,500 last year. i'm no economist, but that is a ratio of 54 to one. the district of columbia, the nation's capital, is the worst of all the 50 states in the union. that is what income inequality looks like in the nation's capital. income inequality has increased in 49 of 50 states since 1989. the poverty rate increase in 43 states. most sharply in nevada. ravage of course by the housing bust, and in my home state of indiana, which sought a rise in low-paying jobs. in all 50 states, the richest 20% of households made far greater income gains than any other quintile, up 12% national
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ly. income for the median household fell with michigan and connecticut leading the way. the five largest increases in inequality -- get this -- the five largest increases in inequality in this country since 1989, all in new england. connecticut, massachusetts, new hampshire, rhode island, and vermont. a decline in manufacturing jobs, and in case you are wondering, hit new england's poor and middle pretty hard, while the highly educated benefited from the expansion of biotech, and you will not be surprised by this, finance. the only state that did not see the rise in inequality was the state i was born in. i grew up in indiana, but i was born in mississippi. the only state that did not see a rise in inequality, but get this -- it had an insignificant dip.
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the magnolia state was one of the few to post a small drop in poverty and a rise in income, but it still ranks as the worst in the nation on both counts. i want to give you some sense of what is happening with income inequality in this country since the year 1989. having said that, i want to start with you and just ask a question that is important as we sit here tonight on the eve of the inauguration on monday, on -- just days ahead of debt ceiling conversations, days after fiscal quick negotiations -- days after fiscal cliff negotiations. was that deal good for poor people? >> for 30 years, we have not addressed this issue, except for the wonderful work that you and cornel are doing in these
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wonderful people on the panel. politics has neglected the poor. one could say that there was a war on the poor rather than a war on poverty for much of this period. the united states has by far the most poverty of any of the high- income countries as a share of the population. we have the highest in quality. we have the most entrenched underclass. we have had the biggest increases of any quality by far, and we've had the least political response of any high- income countries, so we are standing out on our own. this has been a 30-year trend of soaring in comes at the top, stagnation in the middle, and falling through the floor on the bottom, and the political system has refused to address this for 30 years. so we have reached a calamitous situation in this country, but the fact of the matter is nothing that was done at the fiscal cliff and what lies ahead
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most likely will not in any deeper way address this crisis. >> how frightened, then, are you about poor people being stuck, i guess, between a rock and a hard place? how concerned are you about what is going to happen? we all know -- this is the big elephant in the room, these entitlement cuts. i sense and we all sense they will be on the table. we do not know what the president really is going to do. we know that we will not know until march how good this deal is until we get to those cuts, but how frightened are you? >> i think there is nothing we could predict that will make a decisive change in the issues we will be talking about right now because we have been squeezing government -- the so-called discretionary part of our budget. that is, the park for education, job training, labor markets, also for infrastructure, for the
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environment, climate change, for other issues -- that part of our budget is just continuing to shrink, and i think we will, unfortunately, look back after whatever deal is done in february, march, and so forth and see a near-disappearance of this part of our government. we are abdicating the most fundamental responsibility to take care of the people who are most in need and also to take care of our own future. i would say it goes beyond the question of poverty and goes to the question of a broken infrastructure, which we absolutely refused to address. when i come back from a trip abroad, i'm coming back to a rickety infrastructure in this country where you look at our airports and roads. the highways you travel are 50 years old because we are not reinvesting in this country right now. our problem is that we are not taking seriously any of our problems. of course, the poor are the most urgent. they are the ones clinging to
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hang on. when we had a disaster like hurricane sandy that hit the whole east coast -- people have been warning for years with the rising sea levels, the more intense storms, the climate change that we have to get our infrastructure right. we thought we found that out from hurricane katrina. of course, we did nothing because our government is not responding to any of the major challenges we have in this country. the idea, starting around 1981, was to star of the beast, so- called, to just get the size of the government down -- to start -- to starve the beast. one of the problems we have is an underclass that cannot find its way out and no longer has any kind of helping hand. >> i think jeffrey sachs just shanked you. and being funny. i thought i heard him say that one of the mistakes we made was
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back in the 1980's when you were around and running things. one of the mistakes was making our priority all about shrinking government. >> jeffrey sachs and i have a fundamental disagreement, and i suspect most of this panel will have a fundamental disagreement about a couple of facts. it is a fact that this coming march is the 49th anniversary of lyndon johnson declaring war on poverty. it is a fact we have spent over $16 trillion in those 49 years, and it has failed. i like your hashtag -- party must end. i agree entirely. but let me give you two dissenting views. the welfare reform program work. the greatest decrease in child poverty in america came under bill clinton with a republican congress in the late 1990's. that is just a fact. jeffrey is shaking his head. no, it is a fact. the lowest level of black
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children in poverty in history was 1997. you could make an argument that having a welfare system shift toward opportunity would work. >> i'm going to give you all the time you need. before that, what would you say then to those who read the "new york times" stories when they did to review 15 years after bill clinton's welfare to work program, that women and children were falling faster into poverty than anybody else? [applause] i too was the program that helped push them in there? were they wrong? -- it was that program that helped push them in there? were they wrong? >> yes, but let me carry you two steps further. i have been working with a former california assembly leader on a project state-by- state to get people out of prison if they are there for non-violent crimes, to get them brought back into society. you cannot discuss how we will solve some of these problems without rethinking prison in
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america. [applause] ok? now that is a very difficult challenge for both parties. one last example, just to show you how we ought to be thinking differently -- unemployment compensation -- i just last week was with sebastian, who is at google, who taught a course with 151,000 people registered. 140,000 actually completed the course. the top 440 graduates were students who were not at stanford. they had taken the course and learned so much they'd be the highest-ranking stanford students -- date the highest- ranking stanford students -- they beat the highest-ranking stanford students. if you give people 99 weeks of unemployment, that should be an associate's degree. we have no provision today to say if you sign up for unemployment, here are courses you could take to help you get the skills so you could get a job. [applause] it is a fundamentally different
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approach. the key to poverty is productivity. the key to productivity is being honest about an underclass, in itself a very dangerous phrase. we do not have people who lack culture. we have people whose cultures are very destructive of their capacity to enter prosperity. [applause] >> let me ask just one question, and i want to get it out of the way so you can explain what you meant when you set it so that we can all hear it. i'm going to talk to mariana later in this conversation, and i know she wants to get into it. when you referred to barack obama as a food stamp president, tell me what you meant. that a vast majority who get food stamps are white. that could not possibly have been a reference to race. it takes the media to determine what i meant. he has followed policies which
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have limited job growth for the last four years. this is the weakest recovery of any period since the great depression, and if you do not get a recovery, you do not have jobs. if you do not have jobs, you are not in a position to help people get out of poverty because there's no place for them to go. we have had policies which make it relatively easy to extend unemployment, relatively easier to have food stamps, but we are not helping people get back to a level of investment and productivity that creates the kind of jobs we need to get out of here. you look at japan, which has been in recession since 1989. look at greece, which has over 25% unemployment. spain, over 25% unemployment. i worry about a recovery that is not creating jobs and not pulling people into a better future. >> i'm going to get everybody involved in this conversation. let me continue what i do of getting everybody at least initially involved. dr. west, let me come to you because i was running around doing some media today, and i
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understand you were as well. i actually was in the card today in the nation's capital when you were on a local radio program talking about this conversation tonight, so thank you for promoting that. i heard you start to sound off with regard to your thoughts about what it means for barack hussain obama to be sworn in to a second term as president on the king holiday. you heard the applause in this auditorium when i suggested that in my view, and i think in your view, that dr. king is the greatest american we have ever produced. we know he looms large. we know the inauguration is happening on the holiday. we know this is the first time a president will be inaugurated with the king memorial just down the street. his bible has been brought into the equation. help me, which you do so well given what you teach -- help me properly situate what is about to happen on monday these of
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the -- vis-a-vis poverty in america. >> first, i want to salute you, my brother. we have been in the trenches now 20 years, sometimes misunderstood, sometimes divinize, sometimes ostracize, but we are stronger than ever, and we are still going. it is a blessing. but no one i got the news that my dear brother barack obama, president obama, was going to put his precious hand on martin luther king jr.'s bible, i got upset -- no -- know that when i got the news. you do not play with him or his people, people committed to peace and justice, and especially the black tradition that produced it. all the blood, sweat, and tears that went into producing a martin luther king jr. generated a brother of such high decency
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and dignity that you do not use his prophetic fire as just a moment in presidential pageantry without understanding the challenge that he presents to all of those in power, no matter what color they are. no matter what color they are. so the righteous indignation of martin luther king, jr., becomes a moment in political calculation, and that makes my blood boil. why? because martin luther king jr. died owing to three crimes against humanity he was wrestling with -- jim crow traumatizing, terrorizing, stigmatizing black people. lynching, not just segregation the way the press likes to talk about. second, bombs killing innocent people, especially innocent children.
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terribly, with poverty of all colors. he said it is a crime against humanity for the richest nation in the history of the world to have so many of his precious children of all colors living in poverty, and especially on the chocolate side of the nation, on indian reservations and brown arias and yellow slices and black ghettos. so i said to myself -- ok, there's nothing wrong with putting your hand on the bible, even though the bible is talking about justice, and jesus is talking about the least of these, but when it is martin's bible, i said this is personal for me because this is a tradition that i come out of. this is a tradition that is connected to my grandmother's prayers and my grandfathers sermons and my mother's tears and my father's smile, and it is against all of those in power who refuse to follow decent
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policy. so i say to myself, "brother martin luther king, jr., what would you say about the new jim crow? what would you say about the invisibility of our new prisoners?" especially when 50% of them are there for soft drugs but not one executive of the wall street banks has gone to jail. [applause] not one. martin does not like that. not one wiretapper. not one torturer under the bush administration. and what do you say about the drug is being dropped on the brothers and sisters in pakistan and somalia and yemen -- the drones being dropped? my voice haulers out, and do not take it with your hand on his bible -- my voice hollers out. what would you say about the
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poverty in america now beginning with the children and the elderly and our working folks in all colors? not just here, around the world. do not hide and conceal his challenge. as much as i'm glad that barack obama won -- i think that brother mitt romney would have been a catastrophe -- brother newt told the truth about vampire capitalism, but that is the system as a whole. but when barack obama attempts to use that rich tradition of so many struggling to produce that voice that pushed martin in the direction that it did, i get upset. people say we are hating obama. no, we are living the tradition
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that produced martin luther king jr., and we will not allow it to be sanitized, deodorize, sterilized. we want the subversive power to be heard. that is what we think when he said he is going to put his hand on that bible. [applause] and i'm praying for him. i'm praying for him. as is newt. both of us christians. we are praying for him. putting pressure on him. >> dr. west mentioned the children. that is a perfect segue to go straight to jonathan and marianna. i mentioned earlier jonathan has done the best work, to my reading, of many years now and certainly has spent the most time with children in poor
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communities, and no one has done anything better than he has done, making, establishing, and helping us better understand the link between education and poverty. i think we all know there is a link between education and poverty, but jonathan has done the work on it. just give me a top line of this new book, "fire in the ashes," and the 25 years you spend with children and the links to poverty. >> cornel always gets my blood boiling because i agree with him so deeply. i'm old now, so i remember dr. king. i was a young teacher in boston and a white guy living in the black community, and the black ministers did me an honor of letting me stand by his side the first time he came to preach in boston common, and his words changed my life forever.
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that is when i turned my back on an academic life and decided to teach fourth graders in our poorest neighborhoods. i get so angry on his birthday or on martin luther king day -- i heard politicians who turned their back totally on every single thing he lived and died for, never lifted a finger to bring an end to apartheid in schooling, which is now at a higher rate than it was the year he died, and they say, "i, too, had a dream." you cannot play games with the dreams of our prophets. dr. king did not say he had a dream that someday in the canyons of our cities, north and south, we will have tests and anxiety-ridden schools. that was not his dream.
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we've ripped apart his legacy, and then we use his name in vain. my thing, as you know, is children. children in their schools. i'm not an economist. i was scared of numbers, but my world is children. the only tried and proven avenue of exit for the children -- the poorest children in this country from the destitution of their parents is to give them an absolutely terrific, exciting, beautiful, spectacular, and expensive public education. [applause] and to fund it not simply at the same high level as the richest suburbs, but at a higher level because those children need it more. to say one more thing about that -- in the past few years,
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class size has been soaring in our schools because they have been laying off teachers and. i walked into public schools in new york where i find 36 children in a fourth grade class like back in the 1960's. i walked into a high school in los angeles -- 40 kids in a 10th grade social studies class. i made the mistake of asking the teacher right in front of the kids how she teaches 40 kids in a classroom. she said, "do not ever ask that question. find out." and then she left the room. there are a lot of factors that go into terrific education, but one thing i know for sure is that the size of the class a teacher teaches is one of the most important factors in the
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entire pedagogic world. [applause] i have heard plenty of old time conservatives -- pat buchanan once yelled at me -- remember him? he once yelled at me on i said, sure -- the fact of the matter is, i have rich friends that are so much like me. they will say to me, jonathan -- these are people who read my books and say they care about these poor kids in the bronx. they will say to me, jonathan, does class size really matter for the children? i always ask them where their kids go to school. how many children are in their class is. typically they are in a lovely suburb -- 16, 18, parents panic
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when it gets to 21. if they go to lovely private schools like sidwell friends here in washington, it is more like 15. then i see these kids packed into classrooms where there are more children than shares. i do not know how everybody else on this panel feels, but here's what i believe -- a very small class size and the intimate, affectionate attention enables a good teacher to get to every little girl and boy -- if that is good for the son of a prosperous position or a successful lawyer -- physician or a successful lawyer or a daughter of a senator or congressman or the president himself -- then it is good for the poorest child of the poorest women in america. [applause]
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>> getting everybody involved here to have some fun -- let me come to you. jonathan talks so brilliantly -- i am thinking of the chicago teachers strike just months ago. the former chief of staff, he just announced -- now the mayor of chicago -- he demonized as teachers -- demonizing those teachers. most of the so-called liberal newspapers demonized the teachers, including "and york times." -- "that new york times." one thing that hit me so viscerally -- the one decision that both of the teachers and the mayor got right was to leave
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the schools open during the strike so in the kids would have something to eat. remember this? but for those schools remain open, those kids in chicago would not -- 98% that qualify for the free lunch program, they would have nothing to eat daily while the teachers were on strike. your work is trying to establish an america, under free communities -- what does that say to us that in the city of chicago, this grand city of chicago, where the president is from -- i am not trying to demonize him -- schools have to be left open for the kids of that city to have something to eat? >> what does it say about america that we cannot decide on how to educate our children but all of a sudden we can think about what they are eating and
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make sure they get a meal? at the same time, think about, ok, let's make sure the kids are getting an education and school lunch, but forget about school breakfast. i think about the legacy of martin luther king -- if i can dip into that strong tradition and think about what he said, let us be dissatisfied. divine dissatisfaction with what is going on with this country in terms of our education system, but definitely with hunger. the fact that we have 50 million americans who live in food in secure homes, hungry holmes, last year. the majority were homes that had young children. if you think about it, one in four young children with an america under the age of six is suffering from food insecurity. we know that affects their childhood development. we know increases hospitalization rates.
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it costs us an enormous amount, not only socially, and human suffering, but economic suffering in terms of the health-care consequences and costs. long before a child even crosses the threshold of kindergarten, that child is potentially truncated because they are food insecure, they are hungry, their families to not have enough money for food. i went to pick back up on you, congressman gingrich -- when you say our programs do not work, you are absolutely wrong. i come from a tradition of science, a scientific background. i do scientific research on hunger and have been doing that for 15 years. i want to tell you, the food stamp program is one of the single most important programs that we have in this country. [applause] thank you. we know that food stamps prevent hospitalization for children. it is a good investment. think about pediatric
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hospitalization, it costs $24,000 for three days. that same amount of money could feed a family of four for one year. that is a great investment because it prevents hospitalization. it promotes job development, cognitive, social, emotional development, so by the time children are in school they can learn well. let's hope they can have breakfast and can get lunch as well so they can learn and listen to this teachers. learn about those traditions. the other program that worked beautifully is the wic program, women, infants, and children. i know you want to bring in the other people -- i have to speak to this. it brings the comments so far together. if we think about the program, 50% of the newborns in our country are poor enough to broke -- participate. of newborns. that is awesome effectiveness,
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awesome reach -- the rest of the world looks to us as a leader in making sure that we are preventing malnutrition and low birthweight. we know that is effective. but if you look at on the other side, think about the magnitude of child the poverty -- childhood poverty, that one in two eligible -- we have a major problem on our hands. when you think about what will happen, if sequestration happens, the discretionary budget -- how is it possible that the wic program is in the discretionary budget along with whether we build bombs? [applause] the wic program is potentially at risk if we are not careful. we must make sure that that program and the other programs such as early childhood education are protected, because for every $1 we spend on wic, over $3 is saved in medicare expenditures. we know that if wic actually works -- you are wrong in terms
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of whether our federal programs work. the two programs are phenomenal. they are fabulous. they work and they promote child health and well-being and make us a better country. [applause] >> one of the reasons why we are here for this conversation is to talk about what works, to debate what does not. we are going to get into that, i promise. the speaker will get a chance to respond and all of you will get a chance to respond. i want to -- i promise you we can mix things up. i'm glad we have almost three hours for this conversation. that is why i'm rushing through the first part. i will pick up the pace. i want to give everybody a chance. this is an issue that does not get talked about -- i want to take some time. maybe take some time and unpacked this. i want to say quickly we will come back to this -- our hashtag for those watching is
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#povertymustend. if you want to share this message around the world. our website is called when you go there, you'll see a letter that you can sign electronically that asks the president -- we will push this out by the thousands to the white house, asking the president to do two things. one, it is time for a president, in his second term, to give a major public policy address on the eradication of poverty in america. it is time for a major public policy address on eradicating poverty. after he gives that address, we are asking him to convene a white house congress on the eradication of poverty, to bring the experts together through the white house, from the left and the right, to have a conversation about treating the national plan that over a
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certain periodicals can cut poverty in half and over a greater time period move closer to eradicating poverty in the richest nation in the world. mr. president, it is time for a major policy address to eradicate poverty -- we want you tto know what you believe must be done to end poverty. conveningu consider a conference -- we're doing it right now on gun control. but look what it took for us to get to that point of doing it on gun control. what more has to happen? how many more people have to die or fall through the cracks before a leader decides it is important enough to convene the experts to create a national plan? so go to the website. you can assign the letter. we will push these letters out to the white house. i want to go to one of the great union leaders in this country
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-- we're going to hear from the speaker and everybody else, but there is something they have been advancing called the robin hood tax. it is gaining steam -- all kinds of influential americans are buying into this. i want you to hear about it from her as another solution to the poverty problem with america. [applause] >> on the robin hood tax -- is simply a tax on wall street. as we know, wall street does not pay its fair share. the minimum amount when stocks or bonds or derivatives or currencies are bought and sold, there is a minimum amount, 50 cents in the case of stocks, on a $100 trade. we all pay sales tax on everything that we buy. we sell something, we pay tax. this is paying to wall street -- you have gotten a pass. when you talk about jobs and education, i want to ask you,
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where are the jobs? they are not just trickling down or bubbling up -- there are no jobs in this country. i work for labor movement -- is being decimated by the right wing. i will talk about the financial transaction tax -- this is a part of the solution. i want to tell you, i represent registered nurses in the unions across this country. they are of the finest tradition of martin luther king -- they are about humanity. they do not make distinctions among patients. they do not care if you are rich or if you are poor, if you are black or if you are white, if you are a man or if you are a woman -- your their patient. they protect you, the fight for you. what they're finding is because of profits in the health-care industry, the most inept system in the industrial world, the american medical system -- patients are being pushed out,
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children are coming with malnutrition. sometimes the only lunches they get are when they go into the emergency room. this -- the shame that basically our decision makers in wall street have brought to our country is presented to nurses on every shift at every hour in the hospitals in this country. you know what i love about nurses? they do not stop in terms of fighting. they fight like hell with their hospitals in terms of taking care of their patients. they see people when it is very late -- people who have not had cancer screenings. people who basically cannot afford their medication as the drug companies make $60 billion in profits. billions of dollars and trillions sitting in the reserves of the wealthy, and children are starving. people are at almost near-death.
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what the nurses have done is to say i will fight for them with in my hospital, but i will also fight for them in the streets. we've started a robin hood campaign that says, wall street, you are going to pay your fair share. i know jeffrey sacks is with us on this. we have been working with people all around the world. there are people on this board who have said, austerity is not the answer, we should tax wall street trades. [applause] basically, it is time to give something back. i actually wonder, i really wonder, do they care about what the nurses see? do they care about the vulnerability of america right now? one illness away from bankruptcy -- that is where everyone is. most people are underinsured. there will be 30 million people uninsured, even with obamacare,
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and even the people who have insurance cannot figure their insurance out. ultimately, the insurance companies are just robbing the country, along with the financial sector. people of being left out of jobs being created. [applause] their lousy jobs -- some of the jobs being created are hardly what you would consider jobs. i work for the -- as a member of the labor movement. i represent nurses and fight like hell to make sure they can fight for their patience and themselves. but their retirement is under attack -- why should their retirement under attack? the entitlement -- that is an entitlement? that is our money that paid for those entitlements that is being recycled back to us. we are pretty angry. we are organizing a movement -- it is in the streets and in congress and across the world. when are not going to stop. four nurses, they are not
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policy-makers. they do not have the comfort of being able to step back and say, that is not my problem. it is their problem every second of every day with hospitals. would you like me to talk about that robin hood packsacks >> i will come back to you, i promise. you mentioned congress -- please welcome congresswoman marcia fudge. [applause] -- weying to imagine talked earlier about the fiscal cliff and debt ceiling. it is clear there is legislative gridlock in this town. what happens in the months to come with this kind of gridlock -- we already see the battle lines being drawn about what is to happen when these entitlements did on the table with in march. what happens to the poor as you see it in the coming months? >> let me first say, thank you
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so much for allow me to be part of this conversation. i am happy that you have been carrying on this kind of conversation over the last few years. let me try and see if i can put something in context for you -- i think that is something we never really talk about. a lot of this fiscal cliff stuff is really smoke and mirrors -- when you sit back and realize the largest portion of the debt of this country is really three things -- one is two wars we never paid for, what is a medicare part that we never paid for, and the other part is the bush tax cuts. those of the largest portions of the debt of this nation. what they're trying to do now by cutting what you call entitlements and i call and benefits -- [applause] is to protect the cuts they have already made. if you look at where we are, earned benefits, and there is
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really only one entitlement, which is medicaid -- if we do not have enough of a moral imperative to take care of the poorest people in this country, i do not know what we are all doing here. we have to stop and think about how we can, in a congress that is supposed to represent the will of the people, we ignore 46 million people. it did not just art under this president -- when george bush became president of the united states, 17 million people were in poverty. when he left, 30 million people were in poverty. that does not include them going into the ditch that we went into as he was leaving office. this has been a problem for a very long time. i think what we have to understand is you cannot just cut and constrict government. when you do, it goes all the way
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down the pipeline. it is not a cut -- is a shift. when you start cutting at the local, state, and county levels, you create a bigger problem than you think you have solved. is all a game -- >> i have one more person to get involved -- let me ask for a follow-up. you accurately laid out what happened to poverty and the bush and ministration, and then stopped, as if we stopped than. when barack obama was elected -- poverty numbers continue to get worse. on the barack obama -- put the facts on the table. they kept getting worse under barack obama -- sachs writes about this. i'm not doing this to demonize, but i'm wondering how is your mind that poverty gets made a
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priority, whether the president is a republican or a democrat? >> i think i did say that when we went into the ditch as bush came out of office, poverty continue to increase. there is no question about that. it has increased significantly. i do not believe that as a nation, not just the white house but the bottom up, any of us have done enough to address the issues of poverty in this country. we talk about dr. king. one of the things he said was there comes a time when violence is the trail -- silence is the betrayal. [applause] any president is going to address issues we may can address. whoever the president is -- republican or democrat, no matter what. i can say in all fairness that even though i do not believe any of us have done enough, if you look at the two major pieces of legislation that were passed by
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this white house, obamacare, which everybody has been yelling and screaming about, significantly help poor people, significantly. [applause] if you look at the stimulus, in the stimulus there was $2 billion for food stamps. there was more money for head start and has ever been put into a bill for head start. there was more money put into poor schools. telegrams were increased. unemployment was extended. i am not saying it was enough, but i am saying, put the facts on the statable and go from the. if we had not done that, it would be worse. >> fair enough. let's get more facts on the table. we are not even an hour in. i still have a lot of time to work this. let me go to john graham, the dean of environmental affairs at indiana university. a new book out called "america's poor" and the great recession.
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i want to read a small piece in this book, a paragraph, to give you a sense of what the book is. "i am conscious of the limitations born of legislative gridlock between liberals and conservatives." we put together a set of proposals for reducing poverty while still protecting the budget and enhancing long-term financial security. these recommendations include -- here is the last -- list -- include indexing the federal minimum wage to inflation, restructuring medicaid reimbursement, targeting program recipients more precisely, allocating funds in concert with the business cycle, creating a systematic effort to provide subsidized employment and job training, and putting in place party impact analysis to identify new and low-cost avenues for poverty reduction.
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they will not only succeed in reducing poverty, but also succeed in congress. ." a list of things you detailed that you believe can succeed in congress -- both the left and the right can actually agree on some of these ideas that you laid out in this book. tommy why your hopeful that any of these ideas -- tell me why you are hopeful that any of these ideas could be agreed on by the left and the right. >> thank you for allowing me to be here today and offering in midwest perspective on these issues. i would like to give the two good pieces of news from the midwest. both president bush and president obama realized that having a government that is at war on the auto industry is not good for america. the result is we have lots of new people being hired in the midwest, not only at gm and
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chrysler but also honda and to yota. it is not as benefiting the executives -- there are $5,000 bonus is going to workers at gm andford this year. -- and ford this year. another example is natural gas -- both president bush and president obama recognized having a regulatory system that smothers innovation in the natural gas industry is not help the economy. both have allowed an explosion in the natural gas production. one of the cleanest fuels -- this is causing jobs in manufacturing it used to be gone to china to come back to the united states. that has been a positive development for our economy. the first point i want to make, when the two parties can get together on some of these issues this and that things can happen. with respect to poverty specifically, i think it is a well-kept secret of mitt romney and barack obama advocated indexing the minimum wage to
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the rate of inflation. it does not matter now, because we have no inflation, but if the economy gets better and we do not index the minimum wage to inflation people at the bottom of the income spectrum are going to lose ground rather than gain ground in the recovery that is a modest sensible thing we should all agree on. >> that is pretty good for 18. a dean. i'll give you all the leeway you need to do that. i wonder if you can help me imagine what a white house conference to eradicate poverty with the left and right present to talk about ideas that could work if they could agree on -- give me a sense of at this moment what some of the ideas on the table might be that could get this moving, and you can
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respond to what you wanted to earlier. >> part of the challenges that most of the experts who supposedly would come to a conference like that are already experts of ideas that did not work. i think it is important to understand that. the example i gave about sebastian -- if he succeeds and can produce a undergraduate education with a 90% reduction in tuition, he does change, additional opportunity with in america in a way that is staggering and will help. i guarantee it will be hard to talk about a world in which tuition drops 90%, because you challenge all their incomes. education -- i agree almost entirely with what we talked about earlier with education. i spent a year with the secretary of education in this administration and reverend al
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sharpton going around the country. it was an enormous privilege. i guarantee you, as a white republican walking into an inner-city baltimore school, my standing with zero. none of the kids had a clue who i was. they all knew who of sharpton was. i was allowed to be part of the conversation as his sidekick. let me give you to ban things that will be interesting to pick up on a little bit. the fact is, for 60% of most public schools, catholic schools graduate an extraordinarily high percent of kids who go to college. a thought experiment -- what a preset to catholic schools, we will let you enroll as many poor children, and we will fund it? overnight, you have an explosion of highly disciplined schools with passionate teachers that costs 60% as much and can get to 15 students per class.
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i give you that as an example. or take a variety of other things, where you have certain kinds of charter schools that have extraordinary graduation rates. i was in a school in philadelphia, a public charter school -- i had a junior in the school, and the same building, the same neighborhood, the same students, but in three years' time fundamentally changed culturally. they said, but in the old school they expected us to fight, so we thought. in the school, they said the first time the fight will be kicked out. and i wanted to go to college. --ry teacher's colleagues every teacher was engaged. the question of day was not a going to cut, but what college you going to? there was a fundamental change, in a very poor neighborhood. i would be for whatever level of funding it up.
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i think he pointed 15 students is right. poor children need more schooling and better schooling the middle-class and upper- middle-class kids. that is a fact. last point -- i never said we should abolish the food stamp program, which i have voted for. i never said abolish wic, which i voted for. i will suggest to you, after 49 years of in johnson's war on poverty, if you tell us there are 50 million kids who are in insecure food environments, i would have to ask you, what is wrong with the food stamp program that as kids do not have adequate nutrition, and what do we need to do to change the system, because there is something profoundly wrong when we spend this much money and have that big of a gap. [applause] >> thank you. let's deal with this now -- my friend newt gingrich and a lot of my other republican friends, when they want to make a point about what is not working, what
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my friend danny davis would say -- when they want to make a point of what is not the answer to the prayer where poverty is concerned, they go right at in johnson's war on poverty. was the war on poverty a failure, did it had its successes, did we see the number of poor start to go down? contextualize for me the way you see the war on poverty. let me hear your point of view. >> first of all, the kennedy- johnson years had the biggest decline of poverty in the history of this country. it has been at conservative propaganda to repeat this was a failure over and over again. it is nonsense. if you look of the poverty rate of 1959 and compared to the fetal of the decade, that was the biggest single drop we ever had. that was pure propaganda. the fact of the matter is, when you say we need to carve out protection of wic education, it is all going down. we should understand, there is no carving out now. it is under assault.
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we just passed what was called the victory -- we just made permanent the bush era tax cuts for 99% of the households in this country. that was the so-called victory -- what we are doing is breaking the base to stand on any of these programs. newt says he will support it if he works -- but we do not have money on that because taxes on wall street disappeared. taxes on the corporate sector disappeared. look at where the corporate sector keeps its money -- cayman islands. that is next due mitt's money. we have constructed this -- i have to say, sad to say, there is a deeper, lurking truth -- this is not paralysis in washington. this is a bipartisan approach, unfortunately. [applause]
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both parties, both parties have been on this. the only difference is the republicans do it gleefully, the democrats do it wringing their hands. they are both with the corporate sector. they have both decided with cutting the taxes on the top. they are both party to the disappearance of the civilian programs of our national government, which work, and if you look at the budget, unfortunately which president obama has put on the table, the civilian discretionary budget, the non esotery discretionary budget under this president has declined from 4% of national income in 2010 down to below 2% by the end of this decade, 1.7% of national income. for what -- for jobs? for training? for education?
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for all the infrastructure? for the environment? for climate? for science? for technology? we are getting the government. this is the hard truth. what is going to happen in two months is to solidify this. nobody is speaking out for the government. we're talking of protecting the few entitlements -- that is the rearguard action. do not kill everything. but we'll squeeze into nothing. you are absolutely right -- the top cannot pay. they have been given every way to get their money out tax-free. it is trillions of dollars that have been lost, in addition to what has been wasted. [applause] >> it is about to get fun. if i can get some quick responses -- i want to come to you. jeffrey sachs said a moment ago -- there is a bipartisan consensus that the port chester not matter.
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they end up being more and more invisible -- the port just do not matter. they end up being more and more invisible. talk about a guy like in johnson who in doing what he did make it clear that he knew he was writing off the south for the next 30 years of pushing the programs he pushed, the war on poverty, the civil rights act. let me ask you a question -- i think i can predict your answer. let me ask you, have the democrats abandoned poor people? >have they abandoned the issue of poverty? [applause] have the democrats abandoned the poor? >> i'm going to come down hard. >> thank you so much. >> to the first. >> let me say two things. i'm not owned by anybody. no corporations or anybody else.
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secondly, let me say that democrats have in a lot of ways written off poverty -- i would disagree with that. it is no different than guns. if they cannot figure out what to do about it, they do not do anything. but let me also say the congressional black caucus has taken this issue up year after year after year. nobody fights for poor people more. it was the congressional black caucus that basically was willing to hold off on the last but we took because of the pay- fors. people said, how did you pay for the doc fix ? they pay for it by cutting things like dialysis and renal failure treatment and diabetes -- who does that effect? we understand clearly that our caucus is not always on outside. they get so caught up in all of the middle class of this and that -- let me say that the
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congressional black caucus just had its retreat today. we said, we are not going to go for raising the age of medicare. we're not going for putting social security on the table. we know that just increases the poverty in this country. >> since you went there, and i want to be transparent and always authentic in these conversations to make progress -- you are the new chair of the congressional black caucus, stuff that you now and saying stuff -- you have seen as reported everywhere. the first black president, barack obama, and the congressional black caucus had an interesting dance you or do and in the first term. you can read about it at a variety of sources -- there was some tension between the white house and the congressional black caucus. you all decided you were going to go out anyway and create your own jobs. he went around the country and
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set up these jobs ferris. the tension between the white house -- at one point you could not getting meeting. at one point you could not get a meeting with the vice president inside the white house. i am raising them because i am wondering what that relationship is going to be like now that you are the new chair. in the second term -- what happens to the black poor? i was stunned by this. when you did raise your voices, often in tension with the white house. the district would go off on you for giving the black president a hard time. >> that is true. >> i am just asking how this relationship is going to work in the second term given that the black poor are hurting the most. >> let me say, my perspective on this -- i can only speak for myself being the new chair.
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i certainly anticipate having a good relationship with the white house, but i would say what i say to everyone -- the president's job is different from my job. i come from one of the poorest cities in america. i believe that with any president, you have to say what you believe. if that means pushing, then we have to push. i do not believe that any president wants to ignore the pressing issues of our day, whether it be poverty or any other, but they have so much underplayed that if we do not do what we need to do, then it is our fault. [applause] >> and now for the hammer. >> i think that is fair. what i was one to say is that i think there has been a shameful silence, not just in the black
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community, but in the progressive community, of talking about the white house which talks one way but often moves with in another direction. is time to be open about that. the black caucus, i can understand -- you have a black constituency who themselves have a protective disposition for a black president who has been viciously and unfairly attacked from the right. by fox news and other places -- i do not mind the critique, but when they start lying, i have got to defend the president. you have a president dealing with a right wing, a backlash with a black man in the white house. but often he is not defensible when it comes to issues of the poor, prison industrial complex, and so forth. you just cannot defendant. that is the simple silence that brother tavis is talking about -- one that needs to be highlighted precisely because the legacy of harold washington
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-- those of politicians on the inside is still tried to move in certain directions and got a lot of trouble. i want to get to a point about fundamental change -- we do need fundamental change. but part of it has to do with the point about jobs. you can have all the magnificent education in the world like they do in greece, but if you of their jobs they of nowhere to go. why is it that we do not have high-quality jobs? one reason is because in the last 30 years you have had the financial sector and wall street moved to the center -- 41% of profits going to the big banks to do not generate jobs or generate any well connected to productive value. it is well in private pockets. they're sitting on $3.4 trillion right now. they have $700 billion worth of bailouts -- that the hamas did not get but the banks got. they also got nearly interest
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free loans of 7.7 trillion dollars -- $7.7 trillion. can not some of that money be used for decent housing? quality education? jobs with a living wage? [applause] our priority is are so warped because we're living in a culture that is shot through with corrupt soft interest and agreed. nobody gives a about the folks -- notions of caught -- solidarity. that is why i oppose them talking about education -- not is because it not trust these human beings, but erratically poser policy. public education is predicated on the notion you are focused on other kids -- you have to be concerned about all children.
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not any longer -- all this privatizing profit obsession, this preoccupation with this short-term gain as opposed to long-term integrity, is being pushed to the side. i do not care what color you are, what class you are -- we ought to be honest about it. we ought to tell the truth about it. the only way we're going to turn it around. >> i want to ask a quick follow- up -- we will bounce around. we can start to mix this up. it point by question -- all the times we have talked on tv and radio, a private conversations, i have never asked to this. let me ask you on national television. >> i was going to say, after the brilliant oratory you are going to ask questions? >> as you will see, it is simple
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but complex -- do you believe that there is class warfare in this country? >> i believe there is a fix between the big boys in the federal reserve, the new york banks, and those who wrote dodd- frank. i believe that bill is a disaster because it shifts power right to the 10 biggest banks. it basically creates a government-bank coalition. i think it is amazing we went to the last five years and there have been no shifts, unlike the 1930's, no serious investigations of what happened to all the money. [applause] >> i find myself thinking, i am about to agree with dr. west on a topic -- dissertations could be written about this particular thing. the only place you puzzle me is when secretary duncan and reverend sharpton and i went around -- we were going around
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with the precise goal of helping all the children. we wanted everybody -- public education can also be publicly funded education as long as it is open to everyone. it cannot have any restrictions. i want to find a way to get to schools -- i would say, in terms of public education in the current structure -- if you could tie the money to performance and ensure that there was a rapid change in any building where the children are not being served well, then i would be much more comfortable, and i'm willing to go to 15 children per classroom. i think that point is exactly right. >> jonathan, is the speaker right or wrong? >> i do not want to waste too much time tonight on rehashing the voucher argument, the right wing and voucher argument. now the conservatives do not
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call it voucher's anymore, they have other sweeter terms for it. >> are charter terms the answers? >> no. there are a few good charter schools to get the lion's share of attention because they are clever and selective in who they admit and selective about who cares about them in the first place. charter schools, especially the ones that again private corporate money from right-wing foundations, what they represent is a narrowing of the civic virtue to the smallest possible parameters. i will fight for my kids in this little boutique school of 200 children. i will not raise my voice for all the millions left behind. more importantly, a follow-up on cornel's point -- you talk about the trillions of dollars sitting
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there on wall street. i want to make a concrete, specific useful suggestion for president obama -- get a hold of that kind of money. the best preventive medicine that i know of -- rescue children from hereditary poverty. that is, give them absolutely rich, full, exciting, enticing, not drilling, but developmental preschool, starting when they're two years old. [applause] i am sick of people, and i was not a new, but one member of congress who is with us here tonight -- and i will not say who, but one member of congress who is with us here tonight, that there is no proof this works.
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ask any teacher in america if kids in her class -- you will find out whether it works. every kindergartner, every first grade teacher, knows right away. the crime is that even with modest increases that the congressman referred to, very modest increases, more than half of the poor eligible children in this country do not even get a single year of anything at all resembling real preschool education. i happen to know that the rich get it for their children, because i grew up in privilege. they tell me, they do not think i will tell you, but i will. in new york city, the top preschools, that guarantee success in life, not just
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academic but social -- a number that can be plastered on your forehead and a standardized exam. the top preschools, they call them baby ivies. no pretense of a meritocracy. they cost $26,000. here's what i'm saying right now -- if i were the president, i would take all those billions of dollars being wasted right now on at the corporations, and i would put that money into three full years of the best preschool education in the entire world. if they cannot afford to do that, talk about $30 billion -- if we cannot afford to do that, i do not see what help we have
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upholding any sense of dignity, pretense of democracy, in the eyes of people in the rest of the world. [applause] >> i just have to add one thing to that -- one point i will add, to deny this to children is an act of thievery, but it is worse than stealing a car. this is an irreversible theft. you never get to live the second year of your life again. this is it -- you get it once. then it is gone forever. i think the president fails to act on this aggressively, dramatically, prophetically, to get this for us quickly -- i think is not just a budgetary issue. i think it is a theological abomination, a crime against the innocent. >> i agree. [applause] i say all the time, quoting --
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the conversation could not be more timely. i sell the time, quoting dr. king, that budgets are moral documents. you can say what you say, but you are what you are. we know who you are when you put your budget on the table. we can see what your budget priorities are. that is why this conversation could not be more timely. we are days away -- it will be a big party on monday, but after monday as we move toward the debt ceiling conversations and the spending cuts get placed on the table, the poor are likely to take it on the chin. that is why we are here with in washington tonight having this conversation. our hashtag is #povertymustend. our website espy you'll find a letter on that website -- you can electronically sign it asking
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the president to give a major public policy address on poverty sooner than later, and second to convene a white house conference on the eradication of poverty to bring experts to get into crafting national pan that can -- planned to cut poverty in half and eradicate it in the richest nation in the world. it is not a skill problem, it is it will problem. we have the will to the poverty a priority with in this country? >> you have to have the real economy. but we have now? i am amazed -- you could talk about public education, we could talk about health care. everyone knows that a single payer health care system would -- insurance would cover everyone. insurance companies would be gone. cost, quality, access would be at a premium in terms of our ability to be a civil society if we had a single payer health care system.
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we could generate almost 3 million jobs, which would serve to stimulate the rest of the economy when you are building an -- and actually taking care of the people. they know that in washington. they know public education is the bible. this one to privatize it -- is another -- no public education is viable. they just want to privatize it. i think you all doing a beautiful job -- the nurses appreciate you so deeply. honestly, the progressive caucus, the black caucus -- but one of the things that you said, and i completely agree, is that you have got to push. we have got to treat a movement in this country -- occupy was a moment. it needs to start up and keep going -- it needs to bring millions of people with it. the robin hood tax, the campaign the nurses have -- $350 billion a year from wall street for a
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minimum tax. you know what one of the legislator said to one of-is going to the capitol and talking about the wall street tax? she said, you nurses need to lower your expectations. the nurse looked at her and said, would you like for me to say that to you when i am prepare you for surgery? the true story. i mean, honestly, literally, it is a disgrace -- lower your expectations? i see what is happening out here every day. we're not going to lower our expectations. we're going to fight for a real economy. our economy has been hijacked -- we can talk about all the problems, talk endlessly about what i heard yesterday -- i heard about a woman yesterday. we heard about a real woman yesterday from michigan who
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actually chose to have her leg amputated because she could not afford the antibiotics in terms of taking care of her leg. she had her leg amputated because of money, because of money, because we do not have health care system. it is a disgrace. the robin hood tax can generate $350 billion -- they have bipartisanship. they're keeping everything off the agenda that is important to us. they have bipartisanship on that. are they talking about a single pair off to a system -- whether said that helped hijack that. we cannot compromise our principles. we can compromise on taxes, the people have to say, line in the sand. learn that from the labor movement. say, this is a line that you do not cross. we want their jobs back.
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we want our pensions. we want to raise standards for everyone in america. nurses do not want to discriminate. we want a civil society. we want a society -- where is our country? [applause] >> let me ask you -- roseanne said something that got my attention a few seconds ago. it is the notion of whether or not as a society -- has the demos, have we lower our expectations? police say to the citizens who in fact have lowered -- what we say to the citizens who have lowered their expectations -- there's always debate about what the proper role of government ought to be. i suspect it will have more of that in the coming days about what the proper role government should be -- what our expectations? are they too low? some of my friends on the right
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will see the opposite -- the expectations of government are too high. talk to me about expectations -- what do we have a right to expect in the richest nation in the world? >> i think it is important what they were saying about what should be done -- it is not theory, it is actually being done in countries around the world with demonstrated, proven results. every child in many countries in europe start out with that preschool. the results are that on like this country, there is not hereditary poverty. it is proven -- this is not a theory. what you are saying about the health system is completely proven. our health system costs an extra $750 billion a year for exactly the same services that you would get in other countries. at the institute of medicine issued a report that the waste and fraud that comes from this for-profit system is 5% of
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national and, wasted. that sector -- national in, wasted. that sector owens washington. it is not clear -- that is what other countries do. we are just not normal. our politics got hijacked. our politics that hijacked. >> but we are the greatest nation in the world -- is that notion of america and exceptional as. how can this be happening elsewhere and not be happening in the greatest nation in the world? >> one of the things the greatest nation in the world refuses to do is look at any other nation. >> exactly. i [applause] >> and to see what it is doing. you know, the turning point of this country was 32 years ago, almost to the day, when ronald reagan made a statement in his inaugural address that the solution to the government -- the government is not the solution to our problems,
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government is the problem. if you believe that, do not the president, for heaven's sake. you had a president who was inveighing against government. presidents of both parties have basically continued this policy. we have no active programs to solve any of these problems. we know what the solutions are -- we're not going to pay for any of them. i'm telling you, sadly, it is getting worse. no matter what the agreement is in two months. we are squeezing -- the rich have gotten their way. the corporate sector has gotten their way. they do not pay. there is no money for this preschool. all the sectors alone and operate the congress, so we have lower-priced systems, exactly what you say -- overpriced systems, exactly what you say, schools that do not work. we have the least social mobility of many high-income country in the world now. we have kids locked into poverty
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like no other high-income countries in the whole world. because you cannot get out of it for exactly the reason jonathan said. by the time they're six years is so stark in the evidence. >> as jeffrey's talking now -- you recall last year when we had a wonderful panel about poverty. a wonderful panel last year. a great line last year -- there is a highway into poverty but not even a sidewalk out. there is a highway into poverty but not even a sidewalk out. that is the point -- it is so hard to get out. poverty is no longer color-coded -- this is not a black thing, not a brown thing -- this is an american catastrophe that is american catastrophe that is about


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